New York’s liberal privacy laws are under scrutiny as lawyers for the retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez try to track down the photographer who snapped him sitting on the toilet in the Park Avenue apartment he shares with his fiancee, the actor and singer Jennifer Lopez.
A picture making the rounds on social media shows the former New York Yankees slugger, known as “A-Rod”, looking at his phone in a white marble bathroom.
The New York Post’s Page Six declined to publish the picture, citing privacy issues. The tabloid quoted an unidentified source who called the picture “a clear breach of privacy” and said: “One of the hedge funds in the building next door will be getting a big lawsuit.”
With the continued onslaught of intrusive technologies, it may be time to revisit privacy protectionsMichael Quinn
However, successful legal action may be hard to achieve.
Six years ago, New York neighbours of the photographer Arne Svenson sought to block the sale of images he exhibited which showed them in unguarded moments.
According to the New Yorker, Svenson consulted with a lawyer before peeking into the lives of others. The courts found he had not breached any legal convention.
An appellate court decried the “technological home invasion” but ruled that Svenson’s actions were defensible under the first amendment, which guarantees free speech, and that such art needs no consent to be made or sold.
On Saturday Michael Quinn, a New York art lawyer, told the Guardian Rodriguez’s options for recourse were limited.
“New York state’s laws on rights to privacy are sparse,” Quinn said. “Any redress for this type of invasion – a photograph taken into a subject’s unobstructed window from a distance – would be limited to cases involving commercial exploitation.
“With the continued onslaught of intrusive technologies, it may be time for the legislature to revisit privacy protections … of course, it may also be time for interior designers to bring back venetian blinds.”